So given than it’s cold in a large part of the world at the moment, (and if it’s not’s pull up a hammock) what better time to chat about some books? When it comes to guidebooks, most people seem to either love or hate them (although I fall into a little of both) but there’s nothing like a novel to really set the scene before a trip. The following books, apart from being damn good reading give a colourful picture of how these places came to be what they are today and go a long way to understanding their people. Many cover historical events or a period in time (a few during the second world war), and some were even made into movies staring the likes of Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Matthew Newton and Ken Watanabe.
- Australia– Looking for Alibrandi (Melina Marchetta) Is a modern day story of immigrant Australia, told through the eyes of Josephine Alibrandi, explaining the complexity of relations between Australians that go beyond our superficial easygoing nature.
- Cambodia– First they killed my father (Loung Ung), This book follows the story of Loung Ung and her family through the terrible Pol Pot regime from 1975-1979.
- Ireland– Roddy Doyle, Angela’s ashes (Frank McCourt) is the first part of his autobiographic tale of poverty-stricken Ireland from 1930. Trinity (Leon Uris) is a self proclaimed ‘epic’ of Ireland and the Irish, it gives a solid background to how the sectarian conflict in Ireland began and continues.
- Scotland– Trainspotting (Irvine Welsh) introduces the reader to Edinburgh’s ‘Leith speak’ and follows the tale of some local Heroin addicts and their humorous antics.
- Japan– The wind up bird chronicle (Haruki Murakami) is a great introduction to Japanese philosophy and greatly descriptive of the Kanagawa prefecture (where your GTG narrator also called home). Memoirs of a geisha (Arthur Golden) is the biography of Sayuri Nitta, beginning in 1929 through the second world war, following how she became one of Japan’s most celebrated Geisha.
- Nigeria– Half a yellow sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) follows the story of two sisters, a British ex-pat and a house boy through the domestic Nigerian-Biafrian conflict of 1967-1970.
- Afghanistan– The kite runner and A thousand splendid suns (Khaled Hosseini), Are both amazing novels describing life in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.
- China– The kitchen god’s wife, (Amy Tan) Sheds life on the conflict of immigrant identity and also describes life in China for women.
- Caribbean central/south America– Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) is a powerful classic love story, originally published in Spanish.
- Poland–Schindler’s Ark/Schindler’s list (Thomas Keneally), Is the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who managed to save the lives of over a thousand (mostly Polish) Jewish refugees during the holocaust of the second world war.
- India– Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts), is the autobiographical tale that included a stay in Shantaram prison in India. It is a tale of drama, travel, crime, and personal development.
So here is enough reading to keep you busy all winter with something to suit everyone. As always, happy reading, till next week.
NB: Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code and Angels and Demons would have also featured as descriptive of Rome and Paris had they not reached phenomenal levels of success themselves.